"The president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense. We will also work to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enhance their ability to defend themselves," said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.
The Trump administration's announcement came after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates asked for assistance following attacks on two major Saudi oil facilities on Sept. 14.
Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attacks, but it's not clear if the group was actually involved. U.S. officials say the attacks were too sophisticated and powerful for the group on its own. And the Houthi rebels have said they don't have to "provide evidence." The U.S. and Saudi Arabia say Iran may have carried out the attacks.
In a press conference Friday, Esper called the attacks "a dramatic escalation of Iranian aggression," despite calls from President Donald Trump for diplomatic talks with Iran.
"As we have seen, the Iranian regime is waging a deliberate campaign to destabilize the Middle East and impose costs on the international economy," said Esper.
Esper says the deployment demonstrates the U.S.'s commitment to partners in the region. He says the aim is "to ensure the free flow of resources necessary to support the global economy" and to demonstrate American resolve to uphold "international rules-based order."
Esper's statement came just hours after President Trump announced a new round of sanctions against Iran.
"We have just sanctioned the Iranian National Bank. That is their central banking system, and it's going to be at the highest level of sanctions," the president said.
Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.